In Australia today, solar power can provide a cheaper source of power than retail electricity. As solar panels produce most of their energy during the middle of the day when most homeowners aren’t around to use it and the excess gets sent back to the grid, the vast majority of solar users find that they still have to buy energy from the grid in the mornings and evenings. Adding a battery to your solar panel system can help you to use more of the solar that you generate yourself.
There are quite a few different types of solar batteries, but the two most commonly used are lead-acid batteries and lithium-ion batteries. Lead-acid batteries have been around for a long time, and while they tend to be cheaper to buy, they require higher levels of maintenance and have shorter lifespans. Lithium-ion batteries are now the most common choice for solar panel systems. They are more expensive than lead-acid batteries but they typically have higher charge and discharge efficiencies and deliver more cycles in their lifetime - two characteristics which together make them particularly good choices for the average grid-connected solar system.
While it’s widely recognised that solar systems with battery storage are the best way forward for clean and renewable household power in Australia, battery uptake among the general population has been relatively slow up until a couple of years ago, chiefly due to how expensive they have been. The cost of a solar battery largely depends on its storage size, and some batteries will also require the installation of a compatible battery inverter. It’s important to bear in mind that not all solar inverters fit with all types of batteries and your choice of battery may be directed by the specifications of your current system.
Prices coming down
Thanks to recent leaps in technology and intense competition between manufacturers, prohibitive pricing is fast becoming a thing of the past. Battery prices have fallen dramatically in the last few years, dropping an average of 14% every year between 2007 and 2014. In mid-2016, the market for batteries grew significantly, and a national battery audit recorded that almost 7,000 storage units were installed in Australian homes in that year alone.
Preparing your system for a battery
Some older solar inverter systems may not be suitable for retrofitting a battery or may not be compatible with your top battery pick. If your solar inverter is getting on in years, a good solution may be to replace it with a hybrid inverter. Hybrid inverters are relatively new types of inverters that contain a solar inverter and a battery inverter all in one box.
For those who are new to the world of solar, the current climate, prices and technological advancements of the market mean that it now makes more sense than ever before to buy a battery with your solar system from the get-go, or at least to purchase a panel and a hybrid inverter system that will allow you to more easily add a battery in the near future. Hybrid inverters are more expensive than standard solar inverters but they can be more cost effective than installing both a specific solar inverter and a battery inverter in different stages. They can also provide added features like uninterrupted (UPS) back-up during grid outages. Your retailer will be able to talk you through the best options to suit your needs.
Redback Technologies’ Smart Solar Hybrid Inverter
Redback’s Smart Solar Hybrid Inverter is one such hybrid solar inverter. The system can handle all your electricity conversion needs and is designed to be ‘battery ready’. It’s built to integrate with up to 13kWh of energy storage.
What’s more, this smart tech solar solution can help households to optimise their energy usage by identifying the most efficient energy source per time of day, and letting you point that energy in the most effective direction for your needs, whether that’s to different home appliances, to a battery if you have one, or back to the grid to earn a feed-in tariff.
EnergyAustralia and Redback Technologies
As part of their commitment to the development of reliable, affordable, and cleaner energy technology and putting the customers in control of their energy usage, EnergyAustralia announced its investment of $9.3 million in Brisbane-based Redback Technologies in October 2016. Redback’s Smart Hybrid Solar Inverter and Battery Enclosure are now available to order through EnergyAustralia in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, and South Australia.
Solar panels, inverters and batteries are advanced pieces of technology and require an initial investment. We at EnergyAustralia have financing options to help you benefit from clean, renewable solar energy and storage.